Fallout for Brian Williams continues
The fallout after Brian Williams was suspended for six months without pay from his NBC Nightly News anchor chair is being felt by more than Williams, and he is seen as potentially being fired for cause.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, which included Williams, a longtime Fairfield County resident, on its board of directors since 2006, released a statement on Feb.18, announcing his resignation. The organization is involved with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which makes military awards based on valor above and beyond the call of duty.
The foundation did not say why Williams resigned, but it came shortly after his exaggerating his experiences covering the Iraq War caused his suspension at NBC.
Then Williams, 55, canceled a Feb. 27 date to be the keynote speaker at the Palm Beach, Fla. Civic Association’s annual awards luncheon at The Breakers hotel.
Bob Wright, current Civic Association CEO and chairman, and former head of NBC, told the Palm Beach Daily News that NBC management forced Williams to cancel, and is not allowing him to make public appearances.
“I feel terrible about the situation,” Wright, a friend of Williams, told the paper. “But life goes on. We’ll have to get past it. Brian is considerably restrained. He is just struggling. It’s very tough. He is a very people-oriented person. He’d certainly like to get on and explain what he has done and apologize. It’s going to take time.”
Williams was replaced as keynote speaker by former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney.
Daughter defends dad
In her first public statements since her father’s suspension, daughter Allison Williams came to his defense.
Speaking to Seth Meyers and an audience in an interview at New York City’s 92nd Street YMCA on Feb. 18, Allison also revealed that her wedding to Ricky Van Veen, co-founder of CollegeHumor, a popular comedy brand/website, had been postponed.
Meyers began the hour-long session by asking Allison how her family was handling everything.
“This been a really hard time,” said the actress who currently stars in the HBO hit show “Girls,” and who played Peter Pan on live television in December. “We have also been feeling very lucky, counting our blessings that we have our health and have each other.
“It’s been incredible to experience the outreach from people we love, and then from people we don’t even know, strangers saying they want to see him back on TV. It’s been tough though, obviously toughest on my dad, who’s been bearing the full burden of responsibility for it, but my mom has been so strong and my brother has been amazing.
“My dad has always been there for us, 100% of the time, so to be here for him is the least we can do. And one thing this experience has not done is shake my trust and belief in him as a man. He is a really good man, he’s an honest man and a truthful man. He has so much integrity. He cares so much about journalism.Yes, he’s also a really good dad. But I know you can trust him because as any daughter does I’ve tested him on that.”
Meyers, who hosts the ‘Late Night’ TV program, asked Allison what was happening with her upcoming wedding.
“It’s been a very full year,” she replied. “You sort of think, ‘What could possibly come along that would make me not think about it?’ And then I get ‘Peter Pan’ and I think, ‘OK, I will think only about that and then we’ll go back to planning our wedding.
“And then current events started happening and so that derailed it a little bit. It’s just something we haven’t focused on, but, spoiler alert, we are excited.”
Nightly News numbers down
Meanwhile, NBC Nightly News viewership numbers for the first full week without Williams showed a 700,000 drop with Lester Holt in the anchor chair. Feb. 9-13 averaged 9.4 million viewers, down from the 10.1 million for Williams last week anchoring (Feb. 2-6). The 9.4 is, however, in line with the 9.3 million viewers NBC Nightly News has averaged so far this season. It is still holding on to first place over ABC’s World News Tonight and The CBS Evening News.
Regarding his return to NBC Nightly News, a CNN/ORC poll, conducted Feb. 12-15, asked 1,027 people whether Williams should be allowed back to anchoring. 52% said yes, 40% said no, and 8% had no opinion.
The question could be moot, as The New York Post reported there is a morality clause in Williams’ contract that could be used to fire him without compensation from the $10 million a year contract he signed in 2013. The clause reads:
If artist commits any act or becomes involved in any situation, or occurrence, which brings artist into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or which justifiably shocks, insults or offends a significant portion of the community, or if publicity is given to any such conduct …. company shall have the right to terminate.